To determine prevalence of diabetes and associated risk factors in the population of Bahrain.


A cross-sectional study of 2,128 Bahrainis aged 40–69 years was conducted.


Age-standardized prevalence of diabetes was 25% in Jaafari Arabs, 48% in Sunni Arabs, and 23% in Iranians. In multivariate analyses, positive family history of diabetes, low educational status, waist girth, plasma cholesterol, and, in women, postmenopausal status were independently associated with diabetes. Adjusting for these factors did not account for the difference in prevalence between Jaafari and Sunni Arabs. There was no association between diabetes and parental consanguinity. Mean plasma cholesterol was 0.5 mmol/l higher in diabetic than in normoglycemic participants, 0.5 mmol/l higher in Sunni than in Jaafari Arabs, and, excluding diabetic individuals, 0.2 mmol/l higher in those with a positive family history of diabetes than in those with a negative family history. Although 28% of participants had BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2, only 42% of these obese individuals rated themselves as overweight. In men, obesity was inversely related to physical activity at work. In women, obesity was associated with high parity and inversely associated with employment outside the home.


The high rates of diabetes in Bahrain and other Arabian Peninsula populations appear to be part of a familial syndrome that includes raised plasma cholesterol levels. Risk is related to ethnic origin but not to parental consanguinity. Despite the high rates of diabetes, obesity is still perceived as a desirable attribute in this population.

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